The Morning Mix

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Monday provided very little action on the hardwood. But the news cycle kept on spinning, as two mid-majors are joining the conference realignment fray. Get ready for a full night of hoops with The Morning Mix.

Let’s hit the links.

 

Monday’s Top Games:
7:00 p.m. – Richmond @ Old Dominion (NBC Sports Network)
7:00 p.m. – Kent State @ Bucknell
7:00 p.m. – Georgia @ Georgia Tech
7:00 p.m. – Oklahoma @ Arkansas
7:00 p.m. – Texas vs. No. 15 Georgetown
7:00 p.m. – Western Carolina @ No. 13 Illinois
8:00 p.m. – Southeast Missouri State @ No. 12 Missouri
8:00 p.m. – South Dakota State @ No. 14 Minnesota
8:00 p.m. – Wyoming @ Illinois State
8:30 p.m. – Western Michigan @ No. 3 Michigan
9:00 p.m. – Siena @ St. Bonaventure (NBC Sports Network)
9:00 p.m. – No. 25 North Carolina State vs. Connecticut
9:00 p.m. – No. 5 Louisville @ Charleston
9:00 p.m. – Northwestern @ Baylor
9:30 p.m. – Southern Mississippi @ No. 8 Arizona
10:00 p.m. – St. John’s @ San Francisco
10:00 p.m. – Nevada @ Pacific
11:00 p.m. – No. 22 UNLV @ Portland

 

Picture of the Day:
I guess this is an accurate depiction of a “Three-headed monster”. (From @LemurFemur)

http://pbs.twimg.com/media/A9P5Tv7CIAAZhCH.jpg:large

 

Read of the Day:
Statistician extraordinaire Dan Hanner drops some stellar knowledge on how the top-80 recruits have fared thus far this season. Make sure you read this. Hanner is always “must-read” material (RealGM.com)

Read of the Day:
Grantland provides an excellent piece on the tradition that Tom Crean is restoring at Indiana. Read it. (Grantland)

 

Top Stories:
Patience needed for South Carolina fans: NBC Sports College Basketball Insider Vin Parise explains why patience will be needed for Gamecock fans, and provides some insight on players he’s watching out for.

Mark Lyons has 12 assists this year and 15 turnovers, is he Arizona answer at the point? The Wildcats sit at -0 and are ranked inside this top ten. They have a young and talented front court, but seem to be lacking an identity in the back court. The Xavier-transfer has struggled to distribute the ball. But maybe distribution by committee will work best for the Wildcats.

Handicapping the national scoring leader race: We may only be one month into the season, but five players have emerged and will likely battle it out to be the nation’s top scorer this season. You’ve heard of C.J. McCollum, Isaiah Canaan, and Doug McDermott, but there are two sleepers to keep an eye on.

Late Night Snacks from Monday night: There was not a lot of action of the college hardwood last night. One 14 games were played. Of those 14, only nine featured Division I vs. Division I match-ups.

Jim Calhoun had cancer removal surgery in May: The former-UConn head coach revealed on Monday that he had surgery to remove a cancerous growth from his lungs during the off-season. His explanation can only be summed up as “Calhoun-like”

 

Hoops Housekeeping
– Highly touted class of 2014 big-man Karl Towns, who played for the Dominican National Team this summer, is schedule to make his college choice today, and is likely to choose Kentucky (Courier Journal)

– Former-Pittsburgh guard John Johnson has decided to transfer to Penn State (Victory Bell Rings)

– Clemson guard T.J. Sapp has announced his intentions to transfer from the Tigers program (Shakin’ The Southland)

– Providence guard Bryce Cotton is doubtful for the Friars game against Rhode Island, while freshman Kris Dunn is unlikely to make his season debut (Friar Blog)

– Massachusetts center Cady Lalanne has been indefinitely suspended after weekend arrest at on-campus function (MassLive.com)

 

Observations & Insight:
– The non-football Big east schools would be thrilled if the bleeding stops soon (SNY.tv)

– Utah will honor the life of former head coach Rick Majerus by hanging his legendary white sweater in the rafters (ESPN)

– Thanks to a loaded field and a successful turnout, the Battle 4 Atlantis wants to remain the top preseason tournament in the country (Sports Illustrated)

– The NEC is getting raided by the MAAC, as Monmouth and Quinnipiac are set to make a move. Here’s a look at some of the numbers behind the decision (Run the Floor)

– An excellent profile piece on the development of O.D. Anosike, both on and off the court (Albany Times-Union)

– Eamonn Brennan tells us who he would choose if he had to select one basketball player to stay all four years (ESPN)

– John Gasaway breaks down three unranked and under-appreciated teams that we shouldn’t forget about (ESPN Insider)

– Jay Bilas and Chad Ford debate about the most talented teams in the nation (ESPN Insider)

– Jeff Eisenberg drops a solid list of the teams that have most exceeded expectations so far this season (The Dagger)

– The Memphis Tigers are a work in process. The energy and effort provided by freshman Shaq Goodwin is sure to pay off in the long run (Memphis Commercial-Appeal)

– Syracuse whipped Eastern Michigan last night. Jim Boeheim believes the early progress of Rakeem Christmas and Dajuan Coleman are crucial to Syracuse’s chances this season (Syracuse Post-Standard)

– After an anemic showing against Tennessee, the Georgetown Hoyas look to rise above against Texas tonight in Manhattan (Washington Post)

– Is this really a question? I thought it was common knowledge that Florida forward Patric Young is grossly underutilized (Rush The Court)

– Will the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State provide a battle against their Golden Gopher foes from across the border? (From The Barn)

 

Odds & Ends
– Kirk Hanson has won more than 700 games as head coach at Central Bible College (NCCAA), but because of a merger with Evangel University, the three-time National Championship-winning coach will be out of a job (CSN Northwest)

– The LaSalle Explorers will wear slick throwback uniforms against Penn Stat in honor of their 1968-1969 squad that finished 23-1 (Philahoops.com)

– St. John’s will face San Francisco tonight on the west coast. The Johnnies spent some of their free time in San Francisco helping out at a local food bank (Johnny Jungle)

– A look at the total expenses of A-10 basketball programs from last season (Duquesne Sports Blog)

 

Dunk of the Day:
I agree with the description. This angle doesn’t do the dunk proper justice.

 

Do you like the new Morning Mix? Hate it? Have a suggestion or wanted something featured? Troy Machir will take all your praise, insults and inquiries via Twitter (@TroyMachir)

Ohio Valley Conference Preview: A trio of teams lead the way

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Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Ohio Valley Conference.

Two-time OVC player of the year Evan Bradds has graduated, but Belmont remains one of the favorites to claim another conference title.

The first task for the Bruins will be figuring out how to replace or replicate Bradds’ bucket-getting that powered the offense to a 23-win season. Amanze Egekeze and Dylan Winder would both seem to be the natural heirs after posting effective field goal percentages over 60 last year. Like Bradds, both are terrors on the inside, shooting better than 65 percent on 2-pointers, but also have a dimension that Bradds didn’t – 3-point shooting, with Egekeze converting 38.7 percent and Winder 40.2 percent from distance. Without the high-usage Bradds on the roster, both will likely see huge increases in roles, with guard Austin Luke setting them up.

Murray State suffered its first losing season in over 30 years when they went 16-17 last year in Matt McMahon’s second season since succeeding Steve Prohm, but the Racers appear to be on track for an immediate bounce back. Some of the struggle last year can be attributable to plain old bad luck as Murray State went 0-4 in the regular season in overtime games and went 1-8 in games decided by five points or less. The Racers, though, will have to clean things up on the defensive end if they want to challenge for a league title. They were below-average in just about every single facet of the game on that end, and adding five freshmen into the mix may make real strides there difficult. Murray State does have, though, Jonathan Stark, who averaged nearly 22 points per game last season, and he’s a game-changer. They also added junior college standout Anthony Smith, which makes them a threat to capture the conference.

Jacksonville State didn’t look much like a spoiler heading into March last year when they finished with a 9-7 OVC record, but the Gamecocks reeled off three wins, including over league champ Belmont, in the conference tournament to snag an NCAA tournament bid. Second-team all-OVC guard Malcolm Drumwright returns for his senior season and to give coach Ray Harper another dangerous team. Seven-footer Norbertas Giga is also back after putting 30 on Louisville in the NCAA tournament. It will be critical for the Gamecocks to defend the 3-point line better this season. Between Giga and junior Christian Cunningham, Jacksonville State has solid rim protection, but allowed opponents to shoot nearly 38 percent from distance. Some of that is sure to just be variable, but bringing that number down will be a huge determinant of success.

Beyond that, the OVC is tough to project this season, as a number of last season’s contenders lost some key pieces. One group to keep an eye on: Eastern Kentucky. With Asante Gist and Nick Mayo returning, Dan McHale has one of the best 1-2 punches in the league.

MORE: 2017-18 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

PRESEASON OVC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jonathan Stark, Murray State

The 6-foot guard returns after averaging 21.9 points in his first season with the Racers after transferring from Tulane. He got up nearly eight 3-point attempts per game, converting at a 42.5 percent clip. He’s the rare high-volume shooter that also plays efficiently.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON OVC TEAM

  • Malcolm Drumwright, Jacksonville State: All-conference guard will lead the charge for the Gamecocks to get back to the NCAA tournament.
  • Nick Mayo, Eastern Kentucky: A 39 percent 3-point shooter, Mayo scored 18.5 points per game last year.
  • Denzel Mahoney, Southeast Missouri: Mahoney was a breakout star last year as a freshman, putting up nearly 15 points per game and shooting 37.7 percent from 3.
  • Terrell Miller, Murray State: A double-double threat every night, Miller averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds per game.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @OVCSports

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Belmont
2. Murray State
3. Jacksonville State
4. Tennessee State
5. Eastern Illinois
6. Eastern Kentucky
7. SIU-Edwardsville
8. Tennessee Tech
9. Southeast Missouri
10. Morehead State
11. UT Martin
12. Austin Peay

College Hoops Contender Series: Does Kansas have the talent to overcome awkward roster construction?

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Who are the favorites to win a national title? Who can legitimately be called a contender? Who has the pieces to make a run to the Final Four? We’ll break that all down for you over the next three weeks in our Contender Series.

Last week, we gave you our Final Four sleepers and talked about six different Final Four contenders – Louisville, West Virginia, Villanova, Wichita State, USC and Miami – that are just flawed enough that we can’t call them contenders.

There is a pretty clear-cut delineation between the four or five best teams, the clear national title challengers, and the rest of the country this season.

This week, we will be taking a deeper dive into five of those teams.

What makes them good enough to win a national title?

But why won’t they win a national title?

We took a look at Kentucky yesterday. Now let’s break down Kansas and what makes them a title contender.

MOREThe Enigma of Miles Bridges | NBC Sports Preseason All-American Team

Devonte’ Graham (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

WHY THEY WILL WIN

They’re Kansas, and Kansas does not lose Big 12 races.

I don’t expect that that will change this year, and there are four reasons why:

  1. Phog Allen Fieldhouse: Kansas does not lose there. It just doesn’t happen, which means that you can pencil in nine Big 12 wins for them off the bat. Then, consider that …
  2. … the rest of the Big 12 is down: Outside of West Virginia, is there anyone in the league that should scare Kansas? Baylor could be a top 25 team, but losing Jonathan Motley will keep them out of the Big 12 title discussion. Texas should be relevant again, but even with the addition of Mo Bamba and the return of Andrew Jones, I think they’re more ‘top 25 good’ than ‘challenge Kansas’ good. Oklahoma is still rebuilding. Texas Tech and TCU look like they could be NCAA tournament teams, but not much more. Iowa State lost what feels like everyone. Oklahoma State and Kansas State are … whatever.
  3. And Bill Self is still Bill Self: There’s a reason that he is already a Hall of Famer despite being just 54 years old. He’s one of the best in this business, and if the 13 straight regular season titles didn’t convince you yet, I’m not sure that anything will. At this point there is no reason to assume anything other than Self trotting out a team that is going to be in and around the top ten, in the mix for a No. 1 seed and, as such, a Final Four and title contender. It’s just what Kansas does.
  4. Most importantly, Kansas is still super-talented: It starts with Devonte’ Graham, who I think has a real shot at being an all-american this season. He’ll be playing his more natural point guard position, and he may actually be a better pure point guard than National Player of the Year Frank Mason was last season. Malik Newman, a former top ten recruit that redshirted last season, will be joining Graham in the back court. Svi Mykhailiuk is back, as is LaGerald Vick, while another transfer — Sam Cunliffe — will be eligible come December. Throw in Udoka Azubuike and Billy Preston up front, and the Jayhawks have a nice blend of talent, youth and experience.

All that said, I don’t think this will be the best Kansas team we’ve seen in recent years.

 Big Ten Preview | ACC Preview | Atlantic 10 PreviewMountain West Preview

Lagerald Vick (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

WHY THEY WON’T WIN

Everything about this Kansas team just feels kind of … weird.

Let’s start with the transfers. They have five of them on the roster this year. Three will be redshirting this season. One, Sam Cunliffe, won’t be eligible until December after transferring out of Arizona State just one semester into his Sun Devil career. Another, Malik Newman, will be eligible to play this season after redshirting last year, teaming up in the back court with Devonte’ Graham, who is in a weird position in his own right.

Graham was a point guard in high school. He was a point guard when he signed with Appalachian State and he was a point guard when he was forced to go to prep school for a year because the Mountaineers wouldn’t let him out of his Letter Of Intent. He was also a point guard when he arrived at Kansas, and he proceeded to spend the next three years playing off the ball as point guard Frank Mason went from being the other guy in a recruiting class that included Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid to the National Player of the Year as a senior.

For the first time in his college career, Graham will be taking over the primary point guard duties in a back court that includes a player in Newman that wants the ball in his hands and likes to shoot as much as anyone in college hoops.

How that back court pairing gels will likely end up being the most influential part of the Jayhawk season.

But there’s more.

Let’s talk small-ball for a second.

Bill Self, for years, was a coach that wanted to do nothing more than he wanted to play two bigs. Sometimes, those bigs were the Perry Ellis-type, face-up fours whose ability to score in the mid-range was elite. Sometimes, like when he made it to the national title game in 2012, he had Thomas Robinson lining up next to Jeff Withey.

However it played out, the constant was two big men … until last season, when Josh Jackson showed up and suddenly Self had the ideal small-ball lineup: Two point guards, two tough and athletic wings that could make threes and a big body in the post that can block shots and get rebounds. With Jackson now gone, Kansas and Self now have something of a problem on their hands. As it stands, there are just nine eligible scholarship players on the Jayhawks roster. Only three of them can be considered big men — Udoka Azubuike, Billy Preston and Mitch Lightfoot.

Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia | USC | Wichita State | Miami
Udoka Azubuike (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

In an ideal world, one where Self has a back court that includes a pair of ball-handlers that will be in his starting lineup and a shortage of big bodies, the Jayhawks would once again play small-ball.

The problem?

Jackson was the glue that held that lineup together. He was the prototype college four. He was tough as nails defensively, he could rebound like a power forward and he defended the rim when needed. He was also a matchup nightmare on the offensive end, a natural wing and skilled playmaker with three-point range and the ability to grab a rebound and immediately spark transition.

Kansas does not have that guy anymore. LaGerald Vick is an excellent spot-up three-point shooter and the kind of athlete that will be a plus-wing defender, but he’s all of 6-foot-4 and he’s nowhere near the playmaker that Jackson was. Cunliffe, when he finally gets eligible, is a little bit bigger than Vick but not all that different of a player. Svi Mykhailiuk is a skilled player on the offensive end of the floor that has, shall we say, question marks defensively.

In theory, the answer to this problem would be for the Jayhawks to play Azubuike, a former five-star recruit, and Preston, a five-star prospect in the Class of 2017, together. Frankly, they actually fit fairly well together. The problem is that this would mean that the only front court depth that Self would have is Lightfoot, who looked out of his element in the 102 minutes he played as a freshman.

There isn’t an easy answer to this issue.

It’s one of the pitfalls of taking three sit-out transfers the same year.

Which is why this Kansas team has such a weird feel to it.


Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

PREDICTION

Overall, Kansas is going to be fine.

Outside of West Virginia, the rest of the Big 12 is not all that intimidating. The Jayhawks should win their 14th straight Big 12 title.

But there is valid reason to be concerned about what this team is going to be able to accomplish against the best teams in the country. Last year, they were the team that created the mismatches, that forced teams to play their way or take the loss.

I just don’t see how that happens this season. I’m not sure Kansas going small would force the best teams to match them because I don’t think it’s all that worrisome having a college four guard the likes of Vick, Cunliffe or Svi. I also don’t think their two-big lineup will be all that effective unless Preston has a bigger impact — i.e. all-Big 12ish — than I expect and Lightfoot proves to be a better bench presence than I realized.

The combination of Bill Self, the amount of talent on the roster and Phog Allen Fieldhouse will keep the Jayhawks in and around the top five throughout the year.

But I think they will be more matchup-dependent in the NCAA tournament than you would think a potential No. 1 seed would be.

Iowa’s McCaffery: ‘I’ve turned programs in’ for cheating

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There aren’t a lot of unwritten rules in basketball. One of them, though, is that if a coach breaks a real rule, other coaches don’t speak up. Coaches would seemingly rather lose out on a recruit or transfer rather than turning in one of their own for suspected malfeasance.

Not for Fran McCaffery, though.

The Iowa coach was asked Monday about the FBI investigation into corruption into college hoops, and freely volunteered that he has previously turned other programs in for violations – and that he’ll do it again, if need be.

“I’ve turned programs in and I’ll continue to do that when I know that there’s something going on,” McCaffery said at the program’s media day, according to the Des Moines Register. “But a lot of times you don’t know what’s going on. So can you police yourselves? Only if you know something’s going on. But even then it’s hard for the NCAA to do something.”

Turning in another program for violations is really one of the biggest taboos in the coaching profession. That’s why you get coaches look silly in blocking schools for transfers when tampering is suspected, rather than a coach just reporting tampering.

McCaffery’s tactic, while probably frowned upon by many of his colleagues, is probably the best weapon the NCAA has in combating cheating. If coaches make it clear they won’t tolerate cheating – or that if it occurs, it won’t go unremarked upon – that will go along way in changing a culture and system that the FBI is going to potentially uncover with its wide-ranging investigation that already has resulted in 10 people’s arrest and a Hall of Fame coach’s firing.

“Any time the game is cleaned up,” McCaffery said, “it’s better for all of us.”

Report: Louisville offered $1.5 million settlement to Pitino

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When it became clear that Louisville and Rick Pitino were going to part ways, much of the discussion instantly turned to the more than $40 million left on the coach’s contract.

The school reportedly tried to avoid that whole ordeal Monday, but Pitino apparently wasn’t interested.

Louisville offered to pay $1.5 million to a charity started by Pitino in exchange for his resignation, according to WDRB-TV Louisville. Pitino did not accept and was then fired for cause by the Louisville board.

It’s little surprise to see Pitino reject such an offer with so many more millions on the table should he (almost certainly) begin legal proceedings trying to recoup the cash that Louisville says it doesn’t owe him by firing for cause.

I vehemently reject (the school’s) right to do so ‘for cause,’” Pitino said in an affidavit sent to the school. “I have given no ’cause’ for termination of my contract.”

The firing came on the heels of the latest controversy  to hit Louisville under Pitino’s watch. First came the escort scandal that rocked the program, but now the school is part of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. Ten people were arrested as part of the probe, including an adidas executive who is alleged to have orchestrated getting $100,000 to the family of a recruit in order to facilitate his commitment to the Cardinals program.

Pitino may be out at Louisville, but with more than $40 million at stake, the school surely hasn’t seen the last of him.

Louisville officially fires Rick Pitino

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Louisville’s Athletic Association has officially fired head coach Rick Pitino nearly three weeks after an FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball linked the Hall of Fame head coach and his program to a $100,000 payment from Adidas to a recruit that enrolled at Louisville.

The association, made up of trustees, faculty, student and administrators, oversees Louisville athletics. They voted unanimously to fire Pitino.

Pitino has $44 million in salary remaining on his contract, which extends through the 2026 season. He was with Louisville for 16 seasons.

Pitino had been ‘effectively fired‘ by the university on September 27th, the day after the scandal first broke.

Earlier this summer, Louisville had received their sanctions from the NCAA in a different scandal that enveloped Pitino’s program. In October of 2015, a book was published by an escort named Katina Powell who alleged that a member of Pitino’s staff had paid for strippers and prostitutes for recruits and members of the Louisville team, some of whom were underage. The NCAA’s sanctions, which included vacating the 2012 Final Four and 2013 National Title in addition to Louisville’s self-imposed 2016 postseason ban, were handed down in June, two weeks after a Louisville coach had allegedly helped facilitate a $100,000 payment from Adidas to Brian Bowen’s family and six weeks before another coach would allegedly attempt to do the same for a 2019 prospect.